About Playwright Neil Simon
Despite the fact that he had a string of huge box office hits such as The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park and Promises, Promises in the 1960s, Neil Simon was not really taken seriously as a playwright until the 1980s when he started writing about his own life.
His autobiographical trilogy of plays – Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound – which told the stories of his childhood, his Army years and his early career as a television writer showed a dimension to Simon’s writing that caused critics to take some notice of his work. When he followed those comedy-dramas with Lost in Yonkers in 1991, Simon received the Pulitzer Prize.
Simon’s talent is in taking accessible, relatable characters, giving them realistic dialogue and placing them in identifiable situations that explore universal subjects such as sibling rivalry, marital conflicts, adolescence and the fear of getting old. He weaves comedy with drama in a way that audiences can understand and identify with.
Neil Simon was born in 1927 in the Bronx borough of New York City and grew up in the Washington Heights neighbourhood at the northern tip of Manhattan. He attended New York University and the University of Denver before joining the United States Army Air Force Reserve where he wrote for a camp newspaper in Colorado.
After his discharge, Simon took a job as a clerk in Warner Brother’s New York office mailroom. He quit this job when he and his brother, Danny Simon, began to have success writing comedy sketches for radio and early television shows, such as Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows and The Phil Silvers Show .
Simon’s first play, Come Blow Your Horn, took him three years to complete and ran for 678 performances on Broadway. He recalled later that he rewrote that first play “at least 20 times, and I mean from beginning to end. It was the lack of belief in myself. I said, ‘This isn’t good enough. It’s not right.’ That doesn’t mean I could make it better, but I felt I had to try…. It was the equivalent of three years of college.”
The play Barefoot in the Park followed in 1963, and his comedy The Odd Couple, for which he won a Tony Award in 1965, helped to make Simon a celebrity. During one season the by then prolific playwright had four plays running on Broadway at the same time. Many of his plays were also adapted into successful films and TV shows.
Although his work continues to please new audiences in revivals and in community theatres around the world, Simon’s work still is often called lightweight by critics. As theatre writer Walter Kerr once explained, “Americans (critics) have always tended to underrate writers who make them laugh.”
Neil Simon is featured on our list of best American playwrights, and his plays are fantastic. Below is a list of best Neil Simon plays to get you started.
Top Five Neil Simon Plays
Brighton Beach Memoirs1
The Odd Couple2
Barefoot in the Park3
Lost in Yonkers4
More Great Neil Simon Plays
Come Blow Your Horn (1961)
Sweet Charity (1966)
Promises, Promises (1968)
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969)
The Gingerbread Lady (1970)
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971)
The Sunshine Boys (1972)
California Suite (1976)
They’re Playing Our Song (1979)
I Ought to Be in Pictures (1980)
Biloxi Blues (1985)
The Female Odd Couple (1986)
Broadway Bound (1986)
Jake’s Women (1992)
The Goodbye Girl (1993)
Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993)
London Suite (1995)
The Dinner Party (2000)
Neil Simon Quotes
I love living. I have some problems with my life, but living is the best thing they’ve come up with so far.
Money brings some happiness. But after a certain point, it just brings more money.
If you can go through life without ever experiencing pain you probably haven’t been born yet.